No only that, but they get a chance to say it right Pearce’s series in the form of online annotations to the text. An introduction to each article explains that (in what it calls a “unique experiment”) the Guardian “will allow web users to annotate the manuscript to help us in our aim of creating the definitive account of the controversy. This is an attempt at a collaborative route to getting at the truth.” The approach seems effective. In part six, for instance, NASA climate modeler Gavin Schmidt—who has made a number of annotations throughout series—mounts a convincing defense that his colleagues were, in fact, defending the integrity of peer review rather than straining it. Regardless of whether you agree with Pearce or Schmidt, the Guardian’s approach appropriately acknowledges that evidence leaves room for some degree of interpretation.
It is this kind of detailed, intellectually honest (even technologically innovative) reporting that news outlets like The New York Times should be striving for with their coverage of the recent controversies related to the IPCC. Coverage in the U.S. still feels like the proverbial tale of blind men examining different quarters of an elephant. Readers need the point-by-point master narrative. How exactly did this crisis in public confidence crystallize over the last month or so? How did various criticisms of the IPCC roll out? Which of those are legitimate? Which false? And what, if anything, can be done to improve the IPCC’s work?
It is not a story that can be told without a significant amount of context, but news outlets have a responsibility to get it right. If that means sacrificing the front-page thought and running a twelve-part series online instead, so be it.
[Update, 12:00 p.m.: The Washington Post also weighed in with a front-page story on Monday, which provides a decent, but succinct account of the IPCC controversy, mentioning possible ramifications for climate regulations and legislation in the U.S. In the last week, The Christian Science Monitor, Scientific American, Mother Jones, and Foreign Policy have also run analyses of the situation.]